Petersburg: Paradigm of VBOE Fecklessness, the 2023 Update

by John Butcher

Despite nineteen years of “supervision” by the Board and Department of Education, the Petersburg schools marinate in failure.

Va. Code § 22.1-8 provides: “The general supervision of the public school system shall be vested in the Board of Education.”

Va. Code § 22.1-253.13:8 provides:

The Board of Education shall have authority to seek school division compliance with the foregoing Standards of Quality. When the Board of Education determines that a school division has failed or refused, and continues to fail or refuse, to comply with any such Standard, the Board may petition the circuit court having jurisdiction in the school division to mandate or otherwise enforce compliance with such standard, including the development or implementation of any required corrective action plan that a local school board has failed or refused to develop or implement in a timely manner.

Documents on the VBOE Web pages show the following events as to Petersburg:


“MOU” is bureaucratese for “Memorandum of Understanding,” which in turn is an edict to which the Board can point in order to claim it is doing something about lousy schools. The MOU process demands a Corrective Action Plan (“CAP”) that sets forth “specific actions and a schedule designed to ensure that schools within [the affected] school division meet the standards established by the Board.”

The 2023 SOL data are now out; they show the results of the nineteenth year of the Board’s attempts to improve the Petersburg schools.


On average, Virginia’s economically disadvantaged (“ED”) students underperform their more affluent peers (“Not ED”) by about 20%. The SOL average pass rate thus is lowered for the divisions with larger ED populations. To avoid the Biased overall average, let’s look at the underlying averages for the “ED” and “Not ED” groups.

The 2022 reading results were boosted, no telling how much, by the adoption of a “less rigorous” (link now busted) grading scheme. There was no SOL testing in 2020. Participation in the 2021 testing was voluntary. So, the ‘22 data are the first post-pandemic numbers with a claim to measuring anything beyond individual performance. The 2021 data could only clutter up the graphs below, so they have been omitted.

With that out of the way, here are the recent reading pass rates for Petersburg and the state.

Petersburg’s 2019-2022 Not ED pass rate decrease was less than the state average but the Petersburg Not ED rate remained below the state rate for ED students.  As well, both 2023 Petersburg rates show a failure to even begin recovering from the effects of the pandemic.

44.6% of Petersburg’s Not ED students and 56.7% of the ED flunked the ‘23 reading tests.

The math tests enjoyed their scoring boost in 2019, so the data from that year compare directly with the 2022 and 2023 numbers. Petersburg’s post-pandemic decreases and initial recoveries were similar to the statewide results but the ‘23 failure rates remained appalling: 52.5% for Not ED, 64.2 for ED.

On the writing tests, Petersburg showed Not ED improvement in ‘22 but the ED rate dropped below 30%. Both groups lost ground in 2023.

As to history and social science, Petersburg showed nice improvement from ‘22 to ‘23.

Despite nineteen years of “supervision” from the Board and Department of Education, Petersburg wallows in failure.

The Board has yet to sue any school division, even Petersburg, under the authority of § 22.1-253.13:8. Indeed, any such suit would fail: to get the injunction, the Board would have to tell the judge what Petersburg (or Richmond, or . . .) could do to meet the standards. It manifestly does not know.

Isn’t it long past time for the senior bureaucrats at the Department of Education to be directed to employment that is better suited to their talents and for the Board of Education to impose a Corrective Action Plan that can actually correct the performance of the Petersburg schools?


The traditional cheer for the Richmond schools has been, “We beat Petersburg.”

But not always.

Republished with permission from Cranky’s Blog.